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The more you know about theater the less you'll probably like this long, loud, mean chronicle of King's involvement with the Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: his ornery, ignorant, good-ol'-boy persona--which can be a delight in small doses--can get to be downright obnoxious here. especially for readers more interested in Broadway than Larry L. King. It all began with a King article for Playboy about a Texas bordello and the hypocritical politicos who closed it down. Soon actor/director Peter Masterson and songwriter Carol Hall were itching to turn it into a musical; and King, though in the middle of a book about Bobby Baker (and in need of paying work), became their irascible collaborator--complaining about all those songs, refusing to have his macho sheriff sing (sissy stuff), forcing Hall to accept a raw financial deal. True, he eventually came around--enough so for there to be a workshop at the Actors Studio. (King didn't appreciate Method-director Frank Corsaro's emergency help in rehearsals: ""presumably he's somewhere out there improvising his ass off."") But when a producer optioned the show, King kept fighting (""I'll be damned if I'll let the story be chopped up just to string singing and dancing scenes together""); he resented most of the changes made by Hall, Masterson, and choreographer Tommy Tune. . . until they obviously worked on stage. (A couple of King's recommendations finally were accepted--to good effect.) And when the show became a commercial (if not a critical) off-Broadway/B'way success, King got happily rich but stayed bitter--about not winning a Tony award (""while a lot of people who lisped and walked funny pranced up to claim"" theirs), about critic John Simon (""full of shit""), about the forthcoming Whorehouse film. True, there are some funny moments here--about King's agent, about real madam Edna (who was given a bit part in the show), about King's own terrified appearances onstage (as an emergency replacement). And devotees of backstage dirt will find some on unusually unpleasant display--though King's low credibility throughout may even limit the book's appeal as sheer nasty gossip. But readers hoping to find out how a Broadway show really gets put together will get only the most distorted view here; and even King regulars--who'll expect great fun from the clash of Texas and Sardi's--may find just too much genuine egocentric ugliness poking through that tongue-in-cheek, mockredneck delivery.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking